Saturday, 14 December 2013

Fri 29th Nov - Ubud, Bali

Anna's genius at travel planning and writing had secured us two nights at the Viceroy in Ubud. Having stayed at the Viceroy in Santa Monica, I was familiar with it's level of service, but it was still a very welcome, if slightly disconcerting change from backpacking round Asia. 
We both had a massage booked for the first morning. I lept at the prospect, at least as far as my aching knees allowed. After my calves and thighs had been agonisingly pummelled for nearly 90 minutes, we lay inert, face down, anna blissfully relaxed, me catching my breath, recovering as if from a wrestle with a belligerent grizzly, while the rustle of plastic bags in our bathroom next door for ten minutes kept us wondering what was going on. The photo below explains the noise, a ridiculously OTT bath of frangipani petals painstakingly arranged to spell I love U. A quick dip rearranged it into colourful nonsense and left a trail of wet petals around our suite. Such is the life of the privileged and pampered tourist in Bali.

A quick look around the Viceroy in Ubud.
We got the hotel shuttle down into the centre of Ubud to have a look around. It's a pretty town with a reputation for tranquil yoga retreats, serenity and well-being. The area is also renown for its arts and crafts. Around Ubud, villages have their own speciality trades, some deal in wood-carving, some painting, others in stone-masonary. There are several private art galleries around the town that were apparently worth visiting. So, in theory at least, it was a place that we'd both love. 

The reality of Ubud today however is a little disappointing, the pavements are in the process of complete renovation which forced us pedestrians into the street already crazy busy with scooter traffic, and away from the pretty boutiques that relied on our custom. Tranquility was not to be found here.

A quick breather from Ubud's busy lanes in a temple behind the Starbucks coffee shop.
A flick through the Lonely Planet took us down the hill and over the river to the gallery/home Antonio Blanco, the self-styled Dali of Bali. A Spanish emigre, he set up shop here and somehow convinced the local governor of his artistic talents and his worthiness to be sold land here. The fabulously gauche house filled with his mediocre quasi-erotic portraiture is the result. His real talent, for self-promotion, clearly outstripped his artistic ability and his dire efforts at poetry. Nevertheless, it was an entertaining diversion and provided an inside into what Ubud will tolerate in the name of art.
Following the 'Blanco Rennaisance Museum', we headed past the jewellery shops of Monkey Forest Road, to the aptly named Monkey Forest Sanctuary. The macaques here show little restraint in extracting any food hidden about a tourist's person. They'll climb over you and each other if the slightest whiff of goodies are detected about your person. Wo betide you if you're foolish enough to buy a bunch of bananas from a vendor, you'll be set about by these little hooligans within micro-seconds. Look at is little ruffian, just about to leap at the camera, mistaking it for something tasty.
In fairness, I think Ubud's treasures lie outside of it's now over-cooked heart. We probably didn't have long enough to do it justice, but it's fair to say that serenity has long since left the centre of Ubud.

Fortunately, Anna and I had a delightful meal back at the quiet retreat of the hotel that evening, and a further chance for me to catch up on missed London gossip.

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